Archives For Young Adult

 

Karen Thompson Walker - The Age of MiraclesA Brilliant, Simple, and Wildly Compelling Concept

A Feature Review of

The Age of Miracles

Karen Thompson Walker

Hardback: Random House, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Katherine Willis Pershey

Shortly after I finished reading The Age of Miracles, I found myself gushing about the book to a gathering of avid fiction readers. I was surprised by my own enthusiasm, to be honest. I liked the book well enough, despite its notable shortcomings. Karen Thompson Walker’s prose only occasionally sparkles, and the plot of the book isn’t necessarily gripping. But what it lacks in style it overcomes in concept, for as I urged my friends to track down copies of the book, I realized I was speaking almost exclusively about the brilliant, simple, and wildly compelling concept Walker dreamed up for her debut novel: the earth’s rotation slows down.

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“What Could Become of our
Current Fixation with Reality TV
?”

A Review of

Mockingjay.
By Suzanne Collins.

Reviewed by Jeni Newswanger-Smith.

Mockingjay.
Suzanne Collins.

Hardback: Scholastic, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Mockingjay - Suzanne CollinsThroughout Mockingjay, the final book in The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins delivers a fierce, believable and engrossing end to a series that introduced a new level of unflinching violence in the Young Adult (YA) market.  Collins delves into the issues of war and peace, as well as the wisdom in questioning what is “presented for our viewing pleasure” as truth.

The Hunger Games, the first book in this series,  shocked some and delighted others because of its graphic storyline.  Pandem, a future country made up of 12 Districts and a Capitol is a place of tyranny and oppression.  Every year the people of each District are reminded of their inferior positions by being forced to participate in The Hunger Games.  Two young people from each district travel to the capitol, where they are made-over and glammed up, only to be dropped into a stylized, horrifying arena, where they must fight to the death.  The winner is the one who survives.  All people are forced to watch; everyone must see the children kill and be killed.

In the first book, Katniss Everdeen learns to play the Game, providing the pampered, oblivious people of The Capitol with the entertainment they desire, while still surviving.  She achieves something so shocking that she becomes a hero of the whole District, a symbol of their ability to fight back.   In Catching Fire, Katniss must deal with the fallout from winning the games.  She must face head on the hurt of both Peeta, whose love she took advantage of in order the win the game, and Gale, her best friend and hunting partner, who took care of her mother and sister during her absence.  She also must deal with the anger of the President, and a vengeful act that catches the entire nation by surprise.  After again thwarting the desires of her President, Katniss’s District is destroyed and in her rescue, she is forced to leave Peeta behind.

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A Brief Review of

Souls in Transition:
The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults.
Christian Smith with Patricia Snell.
Hardback: Oxford UP, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Mark Eckel.

Swiss authorities studied how religious traditions are passed from generation to generation.  The results published in 2000 were staggering.  When the father of the home attends weekly services, 4 out of 10 children will regularly follow his example as adults.  But when dad’s participation is taken out of the equation, only 2% are committed to church or synagogue later in life.  Adult relationships in the life of a young person’s religious commitment can be described in simple “make or break” terms.

Christian Smith’s latest research advanced in the book Souls in Transition, confirms both the Swiss findings and biblical foundations.  Perhaps the most important statement in the book appears not in the text but in a footnote.  “One of the most common, if not the most common, among the variety of answers that teenagers offered was that they wished they were closer to their parents” (344).  Over and over again qualitative and quantitative sociological analysis reached the same conclusions: “Parents matter a great deal . . . in shaping religion during the emerging adult years” (246).  Of course, Solomon was ahead of the curve.  Timeless truths are drilled deep into ancient Scriptural practices.  The fear of Yahweh provides a family refuge when the righteous man sets the standard for his children (Proverbs 14:26; 20:7).

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A Brief Review of

When You Reach Me.
Rebecca Stead.
2010 Newbery Award Winner.

Hardback: Random House, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Jeni Newswanger Smith.

Rebecca Stead - WHEN YOU REACH MEIn Rebecca Stead’s 2010 Newbery Award winning novel, When You Reach Me, Miranda is a twelve year old navigating sixth grade alone after the confusing and sudden end to her longtime friendship with Sal.  Making new friends comes fairly easily, but Miranda’s new stability is thrown off when mysterious notes begin appearing (“I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own…The trip is a difficult one. I will not be myself when I reach you.”)  They frighten her, of course, but she finds herself unable to share them with her mother after the first, bewildering one.  Thus begins Miranda’s introduction into the confusing world of time-bending adventure.  An adventure she’s not excited to be part of, despite her love of Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery Award-winning classic A Wrinkle in Time.

Miranda’s voice is smart, well-educated, clear, but she’s not very exciting.  I find her refreshing. The larger story, fantastical though it is, is surpassed by the  heart of the story, which is simple: a young girl making sense of a world that keeps growing bigger and more confusing.  In other words–she grows up. Miranda becomes aware of her mother as a real person with failed dreams, and her own responsibilities in regard to meeting the needs of those around her–including friends, enemies and the crazy man on her street corner.

Jumbling together time travel, the $20,000 Pyramid, and pre-teenhood, Stead could have easily fallen into writing the typical quirky-charactered young adult novel (a formula the Newbery Award committee likes to reward).  But despite unusual, frightening, and, yes, quirky circumstances, Stead’s characters are flawed, sometimes unusual, but completely believable–a trait fans of A Wrinkle in Time might recognize.

Stead makes numerous references to A Wrinkle in Time throughout her book and L’Engle fans have been understandably drawn to it, with mixed responses.  While When you Reach Me is a pleasant, easy read, and even a little thought provoking and mind-bending, it lacks the richness and insight that has kept A Wrinkle in Time on teachers’ must-read lists for nearly 50 years.